Zynga Q4 Highlights: 72M Users On Mobile, Lots of Midcore, Real-Money Is On Track

Now that Zynga beat the street with a surprisingly positive $311 million in revenue, here are the highlights from the earnings call. Zynga shares are up about 13 percent since yesterday’s close on the results.

Zynga is now a “mobile-first” company: Yes, this sounds familiar. Zynga now has 72 million monthly active users on mobile platforms, which is about one-quarter of the company’s total. CEO Mark Pincus said on the call that more game teams in the company are focused on mobile launches than on Facebook. They added that Zynga likely has the fifth-largest daily audience on mobile platforms behind companies like Google, and almost certainly the largest in mobile gaming. Players spent 10.7 billion minutes inside Zynga’s mobile games in December. That said, Zynga is still feeling the effect of Draw Something’s decline with daily active users declining to 20 million from 22 million in the previous quarter.

Midcore games are coming: Zynga made its bread-and-butter on the stereotypical 35-year-old female gamer and positioned itself as the new daytime soap opera, so to speak. But following an industry-wide trend, the company is shifting its focus to midcore-style games like Kabam and Kixeye, which have a smaller number of players who typically spend more. “Our pipeline is heavily weighted to midcore,” Pincus said on the call. Zynga recently A Bit Lucky and November Software to get talent to build these kind of games. Speaking of which, Kabam has been quite vocal about its earnings growth.

The company is getting more ruthless in shutting down poor-performing titles earlier — especially with the CityVille 2 shutdown: Barely months after Zynga launched one of its most highly anticipated sequels, the company is shutting down Cityville 2. That follows the closures of the Boston and Japan offices and the shutdown of more than 10 other games in the fourth quarter. Pincus said, “We are re-aligning around our best growth priorities,” he said. This also means the company is becoming more careful about doing pre-launch testing. Early testing of Farmville 2 in the Philippines under the name Big Harvest helped the company iron out kinks and poor pacing in gameplay that would have turned away prospective users.

Zynga’s had three significant sequels: Mafia Wars 2, CityVille 2 and FarmVille 2. But only FarmVille 2 has been really successful; the other two effectively cannibalized the player base of the original without producing better earnings to make up for the decline of the originals. CityVille was Zynga’s third most lucrative game in the third quarter, making $34.3 million in revenue for the company, according to this SEC filing. But CityVille 2 fell out of the top-three best-performing games for the company and lost users dramatically not more than two months after launch.

Real-money games are on track for the first-half of next year: Zynga recently signed a deal with bwin.party to offer real-money gaming in the U.K., and games in this category will start coming out in the first half of next year. Real-money bets in games like Zynga Poker could be a new growth opportunity for the company, as Poker already made up 20 percent of the company’s online game revenue in this most recent quarter.